150 PARISH CHAMPIONS SIGN UP FOR CUMBRIAN BROADBAND CAMPAIGN
Rory Stewart MP has now recruited 150 ‘champions’ from more than a hundred Cumbrian parishes and launched a ground-breaking community website in the next stage of his campaign to get Cumbria ‘the fastest broadband in Europe’. The website, www.broadbandcumbria.
Rory’s strategy has combined the energies of Cumbrian communities with those of civil servants and private companies. In the last few weeks, in addition to his Cumbrian meetings, the MP has also met with every major commercial broadband provider from BT to Virgin to Geo. He has worked with providers, such as Cisco, to look at using superfast broadband networks to improve public services, from healthcare and education to adult social care. Members of the Obama administration and the Federal Communications Commission (who attended the Rheged conference) continue to advise Rory on his Eden broadband campaign. Rory has also been promoting rural broadband around the country, with speeches last week in Derbyshire and Yorkshire and through chairing the recent Westminster E-Forum on rural broadband. As Broadband Minister Ed Vaizey has said ‘no-one has beaten the drum harder for rural broadband and for Cumbria in particular than Rory Stewart.’
On a lighter note, Rory has a loyal band of followers on Twitter who name themselves Rory’s Reivers, and regularly exchange views and updates on the Twitter strand #rbc10. On the back of Rory’s campaign, an entire new radio drama called Rory’s Reivers has emerged, with Rory himself starring in the programme’s first episode last month.
The Penrith and the Border MP’s latest initiative in his fight to connect Cumbria to superfast broadband is the launch this week of community website www.broadbandcumbria.
Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, said: “I was delighted to announce the support for Cumbria. I was particularly impressed by Rory Stewart’s approach and advocacy of broadband for Cumbria. He and the Cumbrian communities should be very proud of what they have achieved.“
Rory commented: “Our broadband conference in Rheged in September allowed us to demonstrate the community approach to Ed Vaizey, the broadband minister, to senior members of Obama’s broadband team (who we flew from the States to Penrith) and to broadband companies. To my surprise, many companies, which would traditionally never have considered an area like Eden, responded to the community offer with their own solution. Government is now also responding. We have secured one of four national broadband pilots and we have received financial support from the Treasury. We now have a chance of establishing the fastest broadband network in Europe in the most sparsely populated constituency in England, allowing us to develop the first hyper-connected rural community in Britain. But, we are only an inkspot. Our dream is, if we can prove the model in Eden, to expand this first to the whole of Cumbria and then to all the rural areas of Britain.“
Broadband champions young and old are being encouraged to get involved by joining the online community atwww.broadbandcumbria.com and setting up their own parish’s dedicated broadband site, with help from Rory’s team. Sites for Lyvennet Valley and Matterdale have already been established and the site’s membership is growing hourly. Members will be encouraged to befriend and network with other members, set up groups, start discussions in the forum, and discover broadband related news, information, and events. It is Rory’s hope that the site will become a thriving online community that will not only share information, but will continue to put pressure on central and local government and suppliers, and inspire all to bring superfast broadband to all of our Cumbrian communities.
Rory encourages anyone with an interest in connecting their village to superfast broadband to join at www.broadbandcumbria.com